Saturday, March 5, 2011

Rediscovering our own collections, a box at a time

Ideas of archival best practice have changed quite a bit in the last fifteen years or so and occasionally as we are trying to keep our records up to date we find things that have been forgotten for a while. Just a few weeks ago, while looking for something in our basement, several shoeboxes of documents were found, which are from the early 18th century. Many of these documents are linked to Reyer Schermerhorn and quite a few of them are in Dutch. While it is unfortunate that we were unaware of these documents existence, the good news is that they are being looked at in more detail now, re-boxed and listed.  Then they will be available for interested researchers.
There are some challenges to such a find though, for example where did these documents come from and what is their story. Luckily for this discovery we were able to trace the documents back to their donation and Katherine was able to contact the donor and gain more information about how they came to us.
Of course there are other challenges to the collection. Old documents that have been folded for a few hundred years don’t always appreciate being unfolded. The fact that so many of the documents are not in a language that any of us can actually read is yet another challenge. But don’t think we will let that stop us, it may take us a while, but we will get a better understanding of these documents in time.

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